Vendee Globe yacht race sets off from France
LES SABLES D’OLONNE, France (AFP) –
The start was sounded on Saturday to the 2012-2013 Vendee Globe, the solo non-stop round-the-world race.
Competitors taking part in the 24,000 mile (44,450km) odyssey were waved off by tens of thousands of spectators watching from the port in Les Sables d’Olonne, western France.
One of the 20 skippers, only Frenchman Bertrand de Broc missed the start as he had to return to base to carry out repairs on his boat after damaging it on his way to the start line.
De Broc, 52, etched his name in Vendee folklore when in the 1992/93 edition he carried out an operation himself on his injured tongue, without anaesthetic, following instructions sent by fax to his boat from the race doctor.
Another boat, Energa skippered by Polish yachtsman Zbigniew Gutkowski, returned to base after the start for reasons unknown.
Eleven of the boats are from France, which has supplied every one of the six winners since the first Vendee in 1990.
Among those trying to break France’s Vendee monopoly are three British competitors – Samantha Davies, fourth last time, Mike Golding, who took third in 2005, and Alex Thomson, who has failed to finish in his previous two attempts at scaling the race known as the Everest of the Seas.
The last edition in 2008-2009 was won by Michel Desjoyeaux in a record 84 days, three hours and nine minutes.
Among the 2012-2013 line-up is Vincent Riou, seeking to repeat his success in 2005.
France’s Marc Guillemot, at the helm of Safran, led the field on their journey, followed by his compatriot Louis Burton and Bernard Stamm of Switzerland.
Golding, a former firefighter tackling his fourth Vendee, this week described the event as “a strange and special beast”.
The three-time world champion, forced to retire in the last Vendee, added: “There are so many things to overcome but always there is the element of luck that you need in your favour.”